When to Use Equalization and Compression

Art Bruder

When should you use Equalization and Compression in your voice over submissions? Is there an order you should stick with? Should you compress and then use equalization? Or, equalization then compress? 

It’s an age old battle… which do you do first? Does it make a difference? 

But wait…  What IS equalization?  What is COMPRESSION?  What are we working on anyway, and why the heck do I even care? 

We are talking about two elements at your disposal for the post-production of your awesome voice over recordings. More specifically, post-production so your voice over auditions sound the very best and offer a casting team the best representation of your voice and ability. Equalization and compression are two powerful tools that you can use to master your audio, and ultimately win more auditions- if you know how to use it right! If you are unfamiliar with how these two components of your DAW work, then you could do more harm than good. (Just a refresher, DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and there are many to choose from: Audacity, Twisted Wave, Adobe Audition, Pro Tools; the list goes on and on!)

So what are equalization and compression tools anyway, and why do we want to use them?

Your awesome voice is an analog audio signal. All sound created here on Earth is broken into a nice linear scale using measurements called Hertz. It is said that the human ear hears in 2020, and by that I mean we can hear 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. That range is broken up into 20,000 individual pieces. And as an engineer, you have complete control over every one of those hertz when you use equalization and compression. Nice!

In order for us to control or modify any of these 20,000 increments of audio, we have to use a tool called an equalizer.

Some of the standard equalizers you will come across in your DAW are 10 band EQ, 31 band EQ, and a parametric EQ. Our focus is going to be on using equalization (EQ ) to enhance our recorded audio auditions. This will alter the audio ever so slightly so that they sound the best they can to the listener. 

An example of why you should use equalizers: There’s a place way at the bottom of the EQ spectrum that is mostly useless low rumbling noise. This is from zero to about 100 Hz. How do we get rid of this useless noise? You MAY have heard of something called a low-cut filter or a Hi-pass filter, but only just in passing at the coffee shop and you really don’t know or understand what they are or do. The function of the low-cut or Hi-pass is to filter out all of the low-end Hz in the equalization spectrum so as not to muddy up your mix or leave extra data that doesn’t need to be transported through a MP3 or wave file. Hence LOW cut or HIGH pass. Cut out the low, let the higher stuff pass. Simple! But wait, there’s more… This article is all about equalization AND compression.

But, what is this compression tool you speak of? It’s in the title of this article… Compression is very different from  equalization. It can be used as a tool, an effect, or both. For our purpose in voice over, we are going to use it as a tool to even out our audio so the listener has an even better, more even listening experience. WOW! 

Again, every voice is different so the parameters of compression will be different too. Threshold, attack, release, make up gain… lots of bells and whistles and buttons and switches to play with! Every DAW has its own equalization and compression function built in, and there are even additional plugins that you can get if you want something a little more special. They may all look different, but they all have the same basic components. Once you are comfortable with how equalization and compression work, and what to listen for, you will be able to easily master your auditions and sound that much more professional. 

If equalization and compression sound way too daunting, don’t worry, Edge Studio can help! You can always book a Home Studio Consultation with me, and we can spend an hour together learning all about how to utilize these tools. You’ll see what these two valuable pieces of software can do, and how to get the most out of them for the best sounding audio in your submissions. If you want something even more basic, keep an eye out for our rotating series of DAW classes that Edge Studio offers. On Tuesday, June 22nd, I’ll be running a Twisted Wave 101 class to show everyone how to navigate this editing software. I hope to see you all there!